By Carrie Aimes (Part One)

All my life I’ve required care, whether it be from family members, friends or paid employees. For over a decade now I have been hiring assistants to help me with an array of tasks, including personal care. I have always chosen to recruit my own staff rather than use agency workers. This has given me much more flexibility in terms of when, how and for the duration of time I use my PA’s. It also means I know exactly who will be providing my care, which is not always the case when going down the agency route. However, with this comes the added responsibility of being an employer, which in itself can be rather daunting and stressful.

I’m in the fortunate position of having being gifted the best family I could ever hope for. I do appreciate though, that not everyone has the invaluable support of relatives to rely on. For these individuals the only option is to pay others, often strangers, to assist with their needs. Like me they might advertise, interview and hire independently, paying for their care with council funded Direct Payments (available in England, Scotland and Wales). Alternatively they may decide to use an agency. For others though, in times of desperation, they have no choice but to leave their residence and spend time in respite care. I know of cases where young people in their twenties have been placed in nursing homes for the elderly, where staff have no knowledge or experience of their condition and specialist needs. Personally I can’t imagine such an experience and count myself lucky that I’ve never had to resort to this.

Over the years, I’ve had several carers or personal assistants, whichever label you prefer. For the most part, I have found them through friends or word of mouth. But, around 18 months ago my longest serving employee had to leave for personal reasons. Her departure was quite a shock but couldn’t be helped. She worked for me for 8 years and had seen me at my worst and most vulnerable, She is a good friend, close to my age, whom I trusted and relied on. So the news of her resignation was somewhat distressing. Thankfully she was good enough to stay until her position had been filled, which she was under no obligation to do. Nevertheless, I was abruptly faced with the immediate and unavoidable task of advertising for her replacement.

I was under no illusion that finding someone who could and would meet my needs would be a simple endeavour. It certainly was not. I’ve been casually told by the social workers who carry out my annual Needs Assessment to simply advertise and hire as and when needed. As if I’ll be flooded by pools of applicants to choose from. Then again, I guess those social workers have never had to find people willing to drag them from their pit every morning and get them ready for the day ahead. Trust me, it’s no easy undertaking when job seekers are sadly too often put off to discover that personal care does in fact mean personal care.

To be continued